This week’s exciting news: we got a tractor! With 10 acres of tillable fields, we needed a small machine and this 21 HP Kubota should be a good size.
It’s an older tractor but it runs well. We don’t know much about tractor repair just yet, so we made sure to get a brand with a service center nearby!
The tractor came with several attachments including a mower, a blade, and a cultivator. There certainly are a lot of different attachments you can buy. It’s a bit overwhelming researching them all, especially since we’re not certain of our long-term plans for what we’ll plant. For the time being, our plan is to put cover crops in the fields to add nutrients to the soil while we focus our efforts on growing leafy greens in the greenhouse. Some of our ideas for the fields are amaranth, oil sunflowers, hybrid hazelnuts and blueberries.
This year we have an abundant crop of hybrid squash-gourds. They were already growing out of last year’s compost pile when we moved in, and they’ve since overtaken a large area of lawn behind the corn crib!
Squashes will cross-pollinate over long distances with anything else in the family Cucurbitacea, which includes squash, pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers and melons. Unless the plants are separated by a good mile or so, you can’t use seeds the following year without getting weird, unpredictable crosses. We don’t have a garden this year so I was pretty thrilled to get a bounty of strange gourdzinis that are, if nothing else, very decorative on our porch.
We’ve got quite a variety here: big, green, pear shaped things with flesh like a zucchini, striped yellow or bicolor ones that look like gourds but are soft inside like summer squash, and small, round lumpy gourds that may be hard enough to dry and turn into kids’ toys.
There are also some white squash that seem to be patty pan squash. I’m sure they’re hybrids as well, but they’re tender and the flavor is great so I’m treating them like actual patty pans.
Disclaimer: It’s not officially safe to eat random hybrid squash. Wild gourds contain a compound called cucurbitacin that will make you feel sick and may give you severe stomach cramping. The compound has been bred out of edible domestic squash varieties but not necessarily decorative gourds. That being said, cucurbitacin is a very bitter tasting compound, so in my opinion you should be fine if you don’t eat any bitter squashes. If you start eating any squash, pumpkin or melon and it tastes very bitter, even one that you purchased, your best bet is to leave it alone. Our compost squash tastes sweet and delicious, and needless to say we haven’t had any problems.
Patty pan squash are often available at the farmer’s market this time of year, and you use them the same way you would use any summer squash or zucchini. We’ve been sautéing them and throwing them into pretty much everything these days, but my favorite way to prepare them is to stuff them with filling and bake them in the oven.
If you don’t have patty pan squash, you can make this recipe using zucchini or summer squash, cut in half lengthwise.
Start by cutting the tops off your squash and using a spoon to scoop out the insides, reserving the flesh. Gently scrape along the sides of the squash until the rind is about 1/4 inch thick all around. Sprinkle the inside of the rind lightly with salt and allow to rest while you prepare the filling, at least 10 minutes. This will bring the excess water out of the squash.
Make a stuffing by sautéing onion, garlic, and the chopped squash innards. Add salt and cook it until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Season with cumin and paprika and sautée a bit more to gently toast the spices. I love the smoked paprika that’s available in the bulk spice section of our local food co-op, but regular paprika works well also.
Mix in cooked rice, flour, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and chopped parsley. Once your mixture has cooled, add an egg and crumbled feta cheese. Blot the squash shells with an absorbent towel and spoon in the filling. Top with a little more paprika.
You’ll have more filling than you need for the squashes, so put your extra in an oven-safe dish to bake.
Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
- 4 medium patty pan squash (about 3 inches across)
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika, plus extra for sprinkling on top
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided in half
- 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 1 can of chickpeas (15 ounces)
- 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 Tablespoon dried parsley)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
- Cut the tops off of the squashes and discard. Use as spoon to scoop out the squashes, leaving about a 1/4 inch shell. Salt the inside of the squash rinds with 1/2 teaspoon salt and allow to rest at least 10 minutes. Coarsely chop the squash innards and set aside.
- Sautée the onion over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add garlic, squash innards, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and sautée 4 minutes more until most of the liquid is gone from the pan. Add paprika and cumin, sautée 1 more minute.
- Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the rice, chickpeas sunflower seeds and parsley. Allow to cool for several minutes before adding the egg and cheese.
- Use a lint-free towel to blot the insides of the squash shells. Spoon filling into each of the shells and sprinkle the tops with paprika. Put excess filling in an oven safe dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.